ORLANDO, Fla. — Matt Canada would "love" to be at LSU next season, he said, and he has not spoken with anyone at the university about his future. 

Canada spoke to reporters Friday at a mandatory coordinator news conference the Citrus Bowl held at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando three days before the Tigers tangle with Notre Dame at Camping World Stadium in this city's downtown. 

Canada's meeting with reporters - about 20 minutes in length before a 15-minute news conference from a podium - came two days after reports surfaced that he would not return as LSU's offensive coordinator next season. The school plans to split with the first-year coordinator after the bowl game, multiple sources have told The Advocate for the past weeks. 

Canada, a 45-year-old Indiana native who the Tigers hired away from Pittsburgh last December, suggested during interviews that he has not held total control of his offense this year and stepped around questions about his reported poor relationship with head coach Ed Orgeron.

Canada sat mum when asked if he has controlled his offense all season, and he offered a telling window into the internal battle with his boss.

"Coach O and I have the same goal – we just want to win," Canada said.

Pressed about their relationship, he said, "That’s our relationship – we just want to win."

At $1.5 million per year, Canada is the highest-paid offensive coordinator in college football. LSU would owe him about $3 million if the school fired him, an amount mitigated by his pay from another job, if he were to get one. 

Canada said he think the players have "stuck together" and have remained focused on winning 10 games despite the reports over the past few days.

"I think our players are good," he said. "They know what’s going on with our focus on winning 10 games. I feel like our players and I … we’ve got a really good situation going. I think we’ve all stuck together."

Upon arriving Thursday night in Orlando, Orgeron said about Canada, "Matt, right now, is our offensive coordinator. He will call plays in the game. Our focus is on beating Notre Dame."

What’s this season been like?

Thought we started off well against BYU. Had a couple of games there we didn’t win, which was frustrating for everybody. I think you look at where we came from and won six of the last seven, really really proud of our players. I think they took the situation and stuck together and, as a team, they played extremely well.

Coach O talks about one team one heartbeat. You look and we’ve won nine games, 6-2 in the SEC. On offense, we had eight turnovers, which is No. 1 in the nation. We have balance and talked about wanting to be balanced. We were 210 rushing and 201 passing (per game). Fourteen touchdowns to 2 picks. The number of guys who touched the football …. I think our backs had 384 carries, really good clip. The wideouts had 56. You look at the receptions. Wideouts had 80, tight ends had 40 and running backs had 39. We talk about balance.

Obviously you want to win it all. Every game there, there was a chance to win the game and we didn’t get it done. I’m really proud of our players and the way he managed the game and took care of the football. All of our guys, it was a great situation. Wish we’d won them all, but I think we did a good job.

How did the offense improve after the Troy game?

I think from the Troy game on, I think they just kept working and we found a way to win. The reason you want to be at a place is you want to win. We just found a way to win. You know, 17-16 at Florida, flash and stats doesn’t look great, but we had three true freshmen playing. Had all those guys go down. At one point, we had Lloyd (Cushenberry) in there as a redshirt freshman as well on the offensive line. We found a way to run the football in the Swamp and win the game. You come back and beat Auburn… Every game is different. That’s the funny part about our sport. The Ole Miss game, the wideouts didn’t catch a pass, right? ‘Oh no what are we going to do?!’ Every game is different. I think our kids bought into being unselfish, bought in to just finding a way to win.

Do you want to be here next season at LSU?

I’d love to be here next year.

Have you spoke to anyone about your future?

I haven’t. Right now it’s about the bowl game. I’m working hard. I set up a plan, we as an offensive staff set up a great game plan. We’re playing a tremendous defense and tremendous defensive coordinator. Done a great job everywhere he’s been, and that’s all we’re really focused on right now – just trying to get to 10 wins.

Is it difficult to keep your players focused given the reports on your future?

Not at all. I think our players are good. They know what’s going on with our focus on winning 10 games. I feel like our players and I … we’ve got a really good situation going. I think we’ve all stuck together.

Have you had past experiences where your job was questioned and you come to a game like this and are able to focus and get past it?

I’m just real focused on the game and players. Ypou look at these kids. Think about DJ Chark. What a year he’s had as a senior. He’s come on, become an elite receiver. He’s averaging over 20-something a catch. The wideouts in general are averaging 19.5 per catch. The numbers those guys have had, with Russell (Gage) and DJ on the edge, has been amazing. Danny playing like a senior. Kids up front – (center) Will Clapp, what a great job he’s done. I’m focused on our guys and enjoy being around them.

That’s what bowl season is over, to spend a little more time with the team you have at the time and the team always changes.

Where do you see the offense going in the future?

This offense has untapped potential. The players here and players recruited here to come here are going to add and fill any voids that might be there for this team. The offense will just explode. I think it’s going to be a great situation.

After the regular season, did you explore any head coaching vacancies?

Head coaching jobs, guys … you don’t apply for head coaching jobs. Head coaching jobs, people call you. I’m sure in your business, too. If people want to talk to you about being a head coach, they call you.

How does the offense change with Myles Brennan or Lowell Naricsse running it?

I think Myles is certainly talented, got in there a little bit and played well. Lowell Naricsse has great ability as well. He’s had a tremendous practice here as he’s gone through everything. Coach O did a great job of getting the young guys some rest, allowing those kids to show in the bowl game. Bowl games are huge. Going to try to win our 10th game against a great opponent. For our players, it’s continue skill development.

Lowell has done a tremendous job of taking advantage of those reps.

What were you anxious about when it comes to your offense competing in the SEC and how did you feel it performed after the season?

It’s a tremendous conference. You guys have covered it forever. Every team has an identity, every coordinator has an identity. You start the film study in the summer when you come to a new place and play people you haven’t played before. I feel like we did a good job of that as an offensive staff. I feel like we took advantage and got matchups. When you look at the numbers of spreading it out, how many guys touched the ball for us … one game, Darrel (Williams) has 100 yards rushing and receiving. We all knew what (Derrius) Guice was going to be, but (spreading) it around. Receivers averaging 7 yards a carry. It’s not this huge number but most plays, if you can get 7 yards a play, you’d be happy with it.

Our offense, a lot of people are running what we run. It’s a little bit different. We do a little bit more with this or that but so was everybody else. Everybody’s running the same plays.

How do you feel like the jet sweeps performed in the league?

That part of our offense, we run it more than some. Some games you hand it off, some games you don’t. Look at the Alabama game, we rushed the ball pretty well without any quarterback runs. Statistically we lost some late in the game with some sacks, trying to catch up when we’re down by 2. Prior to that, we look at what the running backs carries, I think it held up OK.

You got to win them all. So any game we didn’t win, got to find a way to win.

Do you feel like you ran the offense the way you wanted to this season?


All season?

[no response]

How was your offense different against Troy?

That game, you know, we went into the game and had a plan. We felt like we wanted to settle things down a little bit and lineup and blocked. Our lack of execution had nothing to do with that. We just didn’t execute well enough. Had some young guys in there. Turned the ball over. We’re really proud of our turnovers. Four of our eight turnovers were in one game. You’re going to struggle to win a football game against any team let alone a team who’s a good team. That falls on me. We turned the ball over four times.

It’s very, very hard to win games when you turn the ball over four times. It is what it is. The story about that is more so what a tremendous job our players did after that when everybody, probably, threw them dead to the world and they came back and won six out of seven games. Great credit to our players for sticking together.

How have you seen the young quarterbacks grow from September?

When you have two freshmen and a senior in the room you haven’t coached and Justin McMillan, all of them have grown tremendously in their own way. I think Danny has gotten better and better, his ability to manage the game. He’s made some throws down the field. He’s done some good things for us. Works really, really hard. You got Lowell and Myles, as freshman is, some weeks you’re good, some weeks you’re here.

In this business do you have to get along with your boss to personally make it work?

Coach O and I have the same goal – we just want to win.

What is your relationship like with him?

That’s our relationship – we just want to win.

Do you have any immediate plans after the bowl?

Go to work. You look around and you don’t know what’s going to happen any point at any time. I think we’re going to have a couple days off there, spend time with my children, like you do, before Tori goes back to college and Chris goes back to finish his senior year. And then we’ll get to work, get on the road recruiting, do all the things we do.

How did December recruiting go for you?

It was great. I was on the road the first week. Saw some good players that we didn’t make a move on, which is because of the needs we have at other spots. The last two weeks Coach Aranda was in the office game planning for the game, which was Coach O’s plan.

How’s left tackle KJ Malone progressing?

Coming along. That’s one of those deals – great kid and tough story for him. The story becomes how great it is for a true freshman to come in and play. I think KJ did everything we ask. He really bought in all spring, trying to get guys to keep working guys. I think he did a hell of a job in his role, once hurt, still being a part of that group and doing a great job.

Danny Etling, the good and bad this year. How do you evaluate him?

Nine games, he played good enough, and three games we didn’t. If you’re the quarterback, that’s just how it goes. Couple plays in the MississippiState game got called back, which set us back a little bit and then we got behind. Troy game, we missed some opportunities and rallied back. At Alabama, we had a critical turnover there that was hard. You look at the other games and plays he’s made and getting the ball to DJ (Chark), I think Danny’s done everything he can do, done a good job.

Do you lose sleep thinking back at how close you were to completing a few long touchdown passes in a loss at Alabama?

I don’t know I lose sleep about it. That was a tough one. You play those games to win them. We went in with a plan to win. Felt good about our plan, felt good about how our players’ approached it. They believed they were going to win. Tough games come down to a few plays. That’s the way it works.

What do you see in Notre Dame?

Really, really great scheme. Very, very good physical players. They’ve won a lot of games, beat very, very good people. I have great respect for Coach Kelly and Coach (Mike) Elko and what they’ve done and job they did. They came off a year last year that was kind of not up to their standards. They brought in some new coordinators. Again, coach (Elko) was at WakeForest when I was in the ACC and played him twice. He was at Bowling Green when I was at Northern Illinois when we played him. I’ve always said that he’s one of the elite guys in our game as a defensive coordinator. I think he gets the most out of his players everywhere he’s been. That’s why when you look at those numbers, I think he’s done a tremendous job. 

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.